Editorial: Wild animals are nothing to mess with

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 8, 2003

What makes people believe vicious wild animals are something to toy with?

It’s a question we have to wonder more and more about all the time. In the last year, an Albert Lea family was discovered to be keeping a tiger cub as a pet. Before that, a girl was mauled by a tiger at BEARCAT Hollow, an animal park in Mower County. Now, a tiger that mauled its owner in New York has been traced back to the same park.

Exotic animals are gaining in popularity, reports say, partly because people can use Web sites to track down animals they would not have been able to easily find another way.

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Instead of dogs and cats, more people are trying to make prairie dogs and tigers their pets. But they weren’t banking on little problems like monkeypox, which was blamed on pet prairie dogs, and tigers that attack.

These exotic animals are not pets. They don’t belong in houses or apartments among people who don’t understand how to care for them. Even a man who has spent decades working with tigers, Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy, was mauled last week. These animals are powerful predators in the wild. Like any animal, they can turn on a person unexpectedly, but unlike a poodle, they can do some serious damage.

The growing trend of wild creatures as pets is a danger to the people who bring these animals into their homes as well as others in their community. It’s also a danger to the animals, who need special care. Stick with dogs and cats, and if that’s too boring for you, get a ferret. Leave the lions and tigers and bears in the wild and in the zoo.